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R2K's Lachlan McLean recently caught up with Robert Stone (Executive Officer - St.George DRLFC) who outlined what the future holds for OKI Jubilee Stadium and his thoughts on the successful return of the Dragons to the venue in 2003.
1) Do you have a favourite Jubilee Oval memory and when did you play your last 1st Grade game at the ground?
Two favourite memories come to mind. The first one was the first game I played at Kogarah and also the first time I captained St.George. In that game I lasted 20 minutes and dislocated my shoulder. My last match was in 1985 and from memory it was against Canberra in Reserve Grade.
2) Are you happy with the results from Stage 1 of the Jubilee Oval upgrade?
You can always find problems with any kind of building work. Generally speaking, I believe it's very functional and I believe it works for the crowd. We have been able to accommodate our 700 + corporate patrons. This was one of the problems of going back to Kogarah. Generally speaking, I believe the money has been intelligently spent. Most people have been very positive about Stage 1 of the upgrade to Oki Jubilee Stadium.
3) When is the Legends Walk likely to be completed?
We've just received the plans. The actual landscaping on the outside of the ground is to be completed by Kogarah Council and funded by JOCA. The Council has set the schedule and wishes to ensure that the Walk is a quality project. It's fair to say that the initial surveying will be completed by the Warriors game. There is a great deal of landscaping to be done on the outside of the oval and the Walk needs to be integrated into this landscaping. It's going to be a total package. I'm disappointed that the Walk has been held up, but we're going to do it right.
4) Some critics have claimed that parking has always been issue at Kogarah. Have supporters been utilising the new parking stations in Kogarah itself and the shuttle buses from those facilities on match day?
I've never supported the claims of the critics. I think that Oki Jubilee Stadium is one of the better places to park. You can park down near the golf course and it's a 5 minute walk. You can park in Gray Street and it's a 5 minute walk and you can park near Ramsgate Road and it's a 10 minute walk. I think the fact that the parking stations have been built in Derby Street and at Kogarah Station has been beneficial. Supporters have parked in the new parking stations and have used the shuttle buses. Parking has also been a financial bonanza for the Carlton South Public School and the State Rail Authority have helped the transport issue by allowing trains to stop regularly at Carlton Station.
5) How has the St.George Junior Rugby League responded to the return of the Dragons to the local area?
The Junior League is tickled pink. I think there will be a resurgence in our junior development. As I said to my board when we decided to return, any money we spent at Oki Jubilee Stadium will be well spent because it will be reflected in the number of kids playing rugby league in 5 years. I still believe this! The number of kids at Carlton South Public School who went out to the SFS would have been minimal. I am sure that there are a greater percentage of these pupils now attending OKI. I also believe that playing at Kogarah will help us to retain local players.
6) Last year you went on a fact-finding mission to learn about stadiums in the UK. Were you able to apply any of the knowledge you picked up in the UK to the Jubilee Oval return and upgrade?
We looked at 5 grounds. I came back convinced that for rugby league to be successful in the future, it must be a total event rather than just going to watch a game. The game I attended in Castleford was a prime example of this. 10,000 people at a substandard ground going absolutely crazy ensured a great atmosphere. One thing I learnt over there is that the future of rugby league stadia will encompass the use of the land for other facilities. When we went to Castleford they had an education centre, which doubled during the game, as a facility where supporters could have food and a beer. One of the grounds we went to had a motel, which was turned into corporate boxes during on game day. They also had child minding facilities.
The ultimate at Kogarah would be to bring facilities like 'Meals On Wheels' and other such groups into the precinct. Anything we do at Kogarah should include these sorts of community facilities.
7) What are the main obstacles to permanent lighting being installed for the 2004 season?
Funding is the main obstacle at this stage, but we will need lights sooner rather than later. We're working constantly to try and find the required funds. We are interested in the new style of lighting that internalises the light rather than the old style lighting, which sends it out on the community. Lighting is an issue we will be working on in the near future.
8) How will the arrival of Sydney Olympic at Kogarah benefit the venue going forward?
We're working with a State Government organisation called the 'Venue Management Taskforce' who will manage the funding of State venues going forward. Any funds handed allocated by the State Government in the future will go to venues that are multi-purpose. This is the reason why soccer is here. I'd have to say that Sydney Olympic is also making a significant financial contribution to the venue.
9) The St. George Leagues Club's licence on Jubilee Oval ends in 2011. Considering their recent $538,000 investment, is the Leagues Club planning to extend this licence beyond 2011 in the near future?
We're working with Kogarah Council at the moment on an upgrade on the current lease. The arrival of Sydney Olympic has expedited the need to have a look at the lease again. We have made the decision that we are going back to Kogarah to stay and an extended lease would consolidate this.